Market Trends in Cheese: A View from the Trenches will be the topic of a special presentation by Andy Shay, Cheese Product Manager at Sobey’s Ontario, at the first annual general meeting of the Canadian Cheese Society next week.
The meeting on Wednesday, November 16, starts at one o’clock at the Centre for Social Innovation, 720 Bathurst Street, Toronto. It is open to Society members and those interested in getting involved in the organization dedicated to growing the artisan/farmstead/specialty cheese sector in Canada.
The transformation of the Ontario Cheese Society into a Canadian organization to represent and promote artisan, farmstead and specialty cheesemakers coast to coast is under way—not without its challenges. For more information, visit the Ontario Cheese Society website which is being reconfigured to reflect the new scope of the organization.
The Canadian Cheese Society’s first national cheese conference and market is scheduled for March 29, 2012, at Hart House, Toronto.
Petra Kassun-Mutch, founder of Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, serves as chair of the Society. Board members are Elisabeth Bzikot of Best Baa Dairy, Don Pendlebury of Pine Grove Cheese, Amarjit Singh of Local Dairy, Robert Santen of Glen Echo Fine Foods, Georgs Kolesnikovs of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, Wendy Furtenbacher, and Suzanne Caskie.
The Ontario Cheese Society is transforming into a Canadian organization to represent and promote artisan, farmstead and specialty cheesemakers coast to coast.
Since its inception as a provincial body in 2004, the Society has grown to include more than 100 active members as Canada’s only value-chain-based cheese organization. Its membership includes all levels of the value chain from cheese producers and dairy farmers to cheesemongers, retailers, distributors, supporting industry, food writers, academics and cheese enthusiasts alike.
“It became clear to us that cheese producers and cheese lovers in other provinces would be interested in—and benefit from—becoming part of a unique value-chain organization,” says Gurth Pretty, Ontario Cheese Society chair and president of the new Canadian organization. “At our annual general meeting in April 2010, the board of directors presented a proposal to expand our mission across Canada.”
Members endorsed the proposal and the hunt was on for a new name for the new organization. In August, a member survey revealed emphatic support for the new name, with 81 per cent favouring Canadian Cheese Society. It will be a bilingual organization, known in French as la Société des fromages canadiens.
The transformation to the new name and new organization will officially take place January 1, 2011, with the unveiling of a new logo and a revamped website. The Canadian Cheese Society’s first conference will take place in Toronto in the spring of 2011.
The Society objectives are:
to promote and support the attainment of the common goal of its members, which is to grow and develop the artisan/farmstead/specialty cheese sector;
to organize networking and educational opportunities for members;
to provide co-promotion opportunities;
to advocate the importance of the artisan/farmstead/specialty cheese community to policy makers and the consumer;
to facilitate professional development opportunities for its members.
Ontario Cheese Society, during the course of its annual conference and general meeting next Monday, will evolve into a pan-Canadian organization. In an interview with CheeseLover.ca, here’s how Gurth Pretty, chairman of the society’s board, and Andy Shay, a society board member and one of the conference organizers, explain what’s happening.
CheeseLover.ca: What has prompted the Ontario Cheese Society (OCS) to consider going national?
Gurth: The notion has been mentioned by different board members over the last year. When Andy brought to the board’s attention that ongoing trade talks between Canadian officials and representatives from other countries could affect our industry, this was the signal that a national organization was needed to voice the concerns of Canadian cheesemakers.
CheeseLover.ca: What action will take place at the OCS annual general meeting next Monday?
Andy: This is a very exciting time for the Ontario Cheese Society and months of planning are coming to a head at the AGM. Really, we will be asking the membership to ratify the ground work that we have put in place for the society to begin its national agenda. The proposal to go national has been drafted and sent to members and will be voted on at the conference. In addition, we will be asking the members to contribute to the renaming process. The board will sift through the proposals and will announce the new name in May. Coming up there are a few board member seats that will be available to be filled and we hope that we will be able to draw from a diverse national basis. We are also thinking about the AGM for 2011. In a national society, it would move around the country. Next year, the American Cheese Society will be meeting in Montreal, and that might create very interesting opportunities for the 2011 AGM.
CheeseLover.ca: Are there any other provincial organizations like the OCS? Do they support the idea of a national cheese society?
Gurth:La Société des fromages du Quebec is the only other provincial cheese organization in Canada. Several Quebec cheesemakers and distributors were invited to attend this year’s “Unity” conference. Several members are registered in both organizations. We will discuss with la Société’s executive officers, to hear their comments and suggestions.
CheeseLover.ca: Does OCS only represent the artisan cheese industry? What will the scope of the national organization be?
Gurth: The OCS represents all facets of the Ontario cheese industry, from the large industrial cheesemaker to the tiny artisanal-farmstead operation, where they produce cheese from their flock of 25 sheep. The mandate of the national organization is to be written and agreed to by the interim board. I personally hope that the organization will represent all cheesemakers making cheese with Canadian milk.
CheeseLover.ca: How many members does OCS currently have? Are there several categories? What success has OCS had over the six years since its founding?
Andy: Currently there are well over 100 members representing cheesemakers, milk producers, distributors, retailers, restaurateurs, educators, media and enthusiasts. One of the original goals was to increase communication among all aspects of the industry and that has been accomplished in several ways. First, the AGM has turned out to be a really important annual event for connecting and reconnecting with the cheese network as well as being a chance to regenerate with new ideas. Second, the AGM marketplace and other consumer shows that the society hosts during the year has increased the public profile and access to the cheeses and the cheesemakers that have not always been easy to find. Third, the communication between the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) and cheesemakers and between the cheesemakers has been opened and there is now a regular back and forth between those parties, about policy, but also about daily operation. We have also increased communication for all members through the monthly publishing of The Slice e-mail, a sort of bulletin board of all things cheese. One other initiative coming up will be the membership card which will entitle the holder to a 10-percent discount at participating retailers.
The Ontario Cheese Society’s sixth annual conference, AGM and marketplace takes place Monday, April 26, at Hart House on the University of Toronto campus in downtown Toronto.
The public is invited to the Canadian Artisan Cheese Marketplace & Prince Edward County Wine Tasting that will take place Monday evening. Click here for more information.